As you are probably well aware, South Florida has a lot of hard water, water that can make your life difficult. It clogs up the pipes, ruins kitchen appliances, damages clothes, harms skin and makes hair feel terrible.
But why is there so much hard water in the Sunshine State and what are the best ways to get rid of it or lessen its effects?
What Is Hard Water?
If you remember your geography lessons from school, you may also remember the water cycle. Just in case you don’t, here is an elementary description:
As surface water heats up, it evaporates into the atmosphere. When the air contains more vapor than it can receive and the temperature drops or there is a mixing of air masses of different temperatures, the water condenses. It then falls back to the land as rain.
Eventually, most of the water will end up in a large surface or groundwater source (where it gets taken back up into the sky once more). But before it does, it is likely to pick up a mix of different particles along the way.
If there is a lot of calcium or magnesium in the ground, the water will pick it up, and it’s this calcium and magnesium that makes water hard. So, it is safe to say that hard water is entirely natural and there is little that can be done to stop water from becoming hard while it is moving.
Why South Florida Suffers From Hard Water
While there are many advantages to living in Florida when it comes to water, a lack of snow and ice on the roads being two, an availability of soft water isn’t one of them. Although only 5 – 10% of the earth is made up of limestone, Florida is a ‘karstic’ which unfortunately means it is predominantly made up of limestone.
Now, the reason why Florida has so much limestone is because it is bounded by the ocean. Having little sea creatures dying in their billions is what makes the limestone in the first place.
One of the most amazing properties of water is that it can dissolve pretty much anything it comes into contact with. And the problem with limestone is that it dissolves quite easily. A chemist or geologist will tell you that limestone is mainly made up of calcium… You know where this is going, aren’t you?
How Does Hard Water Affect You?
Hard water is not just an inconvenience; it’s a costly inconvenience.
- Before it even gets to your taps, it’s clogging up your plumbing, decreasing the flow inside the pipes.
- Taps and shower heads get clogged up as well, decreasing the amount of pressure.
- Hot water tanks are also affected by hard water, with one study suggesting that it decreases the life of water heaters and tanks by nearly 50%.
- Hard water affects less substantial items around the house, such as kitchen appliances, kettles, dishwashers and washing machines.
- While the clothes are being washed, they are also being damaged by the hard water, lasting up to 40% less than clothes washed in soft water.
- Even skin and hair are damaged. To add insult to injury, because soap and detergent don’t work that well, households in hard water areas have to spend more money on cleaning products.
The Best Ways to Lessen the Effects of Hard Water
Even though hard water is such an annoyance, it’s remarkable that so little is done to fix the problem, and yet the solution is often quite simple. Most hard water problems can be solved by just installing a water softener.
Water softeners come in all shapes and sizes, but the basic principle behind them is always to convert hard water into soft water. Simply put, hard water enters the softener at one end, passes through a bed of microbeads coated in sodium, which the calcium and magnesium stick to, and comes out of the softener leaving all hardness minerals behind. This process is called ‘ion exchange’.
Another way to fight hard water is to use a chelating agent that binds to the minerals and prevents them from forming deposits. This won’t remove any of the lime, but lessens the damaging effects.
If you are only worried about your clothes, you could also use good old liquid softener (conditioner) such as Calgon.
Hard water is a natural phenomenon. The reason why we have so much of it in South Florida is because much of our ground is made up of limestone. What you can do to protect your plumbing, taps and shower heads is to use a water softener or a chelating agent. For softer laundry, a liquid conditioner usually does the trick.